At a time when President Trump is attempting to limit access to the United States to foreign visitors, Austin-based Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) is extending a warm welcome to top-performing students from South Korea. As a U.S State Department designated sponsor for several visa programs that bring students and young professionals into the United States to work, study and learn about American culture, AAG is an enthusiastic supporter of the Korea WEST and other international exchange programs.
The exchange visitor program began as part of the Fulbright Hays Act, established to expose Americans to citizens of other countries and to bring foreign students into the United States for the purpose of education and greater understanding. “It’s an interesting time in our business with the immigration controversy,” says Victoria Lynden, the founder and CEO of Alliance Abroad. “The purpose of this program is to start diplomacy efforts early with the future leaders of other countries. Along with many government advocates, it is our experience that cultural exchange programs serve to strengthen relationships between the United States and other nations and is an important component of a national security strategy.” According to a statement issued by the State Department, “Exchange programs play an important role in building good will and strengthening important bilateral relationships.”
The United States and its ally The Republic of Korea, established a reciprocal exchange program in 2008. Through Korea WEST (Work, English, Study and Travel) academically gifted students are recruited and selected to participate in the language and professional internships through visa sponsors like AAG. In return, American students are given the reciprocal opportunity to intern in Korea.
Hanee Choi, is a sociology graduate from Seoul, South Korea. After graduating first in her university class, she learned about the Korea West program. “I am interested in issues that affect the whole of international society – especially environmental issues, human rights issues, developing country issues, the history of culture, science, mass media and people’s emotions,” Hanee explains. “The U.S. is a pioneer in sociology and the international issues that I am interested in, so this program is a wonderful opportunity.”
Choi is one of 45 participants who arrived in Austin in January to begin English training that will be followed by a six to ten month internship. In August, Austin will welcome another 50 Korean WEST participants. “We are still looking for local businesses to host these incredibly motivated students,” says Lynden. “This is a program where everyone who participates wins,” she adds. “Companies benefit by adding top talent and diversity to their teams, as well as the knowledge that participating in this program will have an indelible effect on these students. We’re hoping to find great homes for all the participants and show them what our city is all about – innovative businesses, great people and plenty of opportunity to grow and learn.”
Interested in learning more? Call Vanessa Noel at Alliance Abroad: 512-565-8405
About Alliance Abroad Group
Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) is an alternative recruiting company that brings top international talent to companies around the globe. For over 27 years, we’ve helped employers find cost-effective and innovative talent management solutions to address their recruiting and retention challenges. International students and young professionals bring education, skills, commitment and enthusiasm to American businesses as well as the diversity proven to be a key performance indicator and competitive advantage.
Learn more: www.allianceabroad.com
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John Kerry’s exit letter detailing the accomplishments of the Obama administration and the Department of State was brilliantly composed and thoughtfully stated. Secretary Kerry was quick to remind a sometimes forgetful nation of the sad state of economic and diplomatic affairs when Barack Obama first took office in 2009. But in a detailed and beautifully articulated letter, Kerry outlines the tremendous progress over the past eight years that as provided the American people with greater security at home and abroad. He describes the efforts to thwart foreign despots from threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction, the destabilization of major terrorist groups that included bringing the people responsible for the 911 attacks to justice, and the diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving conflicts all over the world. Along with greater security for American people, the Obama administration has also made tremendous progress in gaining support for initiatives aimed at protecting our planet, expanding opportunities for American businesses and people, defending universal values and modernizing the State Department so that its important work throughout the world can be conducted with greater efficiency and security.
Secretary Kerry is a statesman, a gentleman and a patriotic American who has dedicated his life in service to the American people. He has been an ardent supporter of diplomacy programs such as the Exchange Visitor Programs, which introduce and immerse foreign students and visitors in American culture for the purpose of education and greater understanding. As visitor exchange sponsors, we have witnessed the palpable changes in perspective, attitude and understanding when people work, study and learn side by side and hand in hand. When we approach human beings with humanity and humanely, we can and will create peace and prosperity on the planet.
In a recent blog post, AAG expressed our belief about what makes America great. We believe that is America is great precisely because we embrace the diversity of people, perspectives and the idea that all beings under God and this nation are created equal and therefore, due equal rights. We echo and applaud Kerry’s closing remarks:
American greatness is a fact but not an entitlement. It cannot be taken for granted. It must be demonstrated and earned by every generation. It demands the best from us, and the best within us. The world will be watching to see whether we – the American people – remain up to that challenge. There is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that the answer is yes, but we will have to work at it, together, and make the investments that leaders have a responsibility to make. Today’s State Department is a rewarding place to work because we have a unique country to represent, great things to accomplish, and a matchless set of colleagues by our side. I will always be grateful for the incredible opportunity I have been given to serve – it’s been the honor of my life. I send President Obama’s successor, and mine, all the best wishes as they embark on what will be a truly extraordinary journey representing the greatest country on earth.
We sincerely hope that the incoming administration will embrace as passionately the values of inclusion, equal rights and diversity that, as Americans, we all hold dear. We eagerly await their direction and offer our support of exchange and other diplomacy efforts that protect our nation’s security and freedom.
Alliance Abroad would like to thank Secretary Kerry for his service and all the tremendous accomplishments that have served to advance greater peace and prosperity around the world. We salute Barack Obama for his courage, tenacity, composure and purposeful agenda to help all Americans – not just the privileged and powerful. He stood convicted in the face of constant opposition and harsh criticism, undaunted in his pursuit to uphold the very principles of our constitution and the convictions of our forefathers- liberty, justice, freedom and equality for all. Well done gentlemen. Thank you.
As cultural exchange leaders and Austin neighbors, Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) shares GAACC’s passion for driving economic growth for businesses with ties to Asia and Asian Americans. We are proud sponsors of the Korea WEST Intern program, a joint venture between the U.S. State Department and the South Korean Ministry of Education. The program’s purpose is to foster international relations between the U.S. and South Korea.
We are currently sponsoring Korean students who are looking for internship opportunities in the United States. Candidates are eager to put their education into a practical business application, improve their English speaking skills and learn more about our country and communities. In our 27 years of experience with international exchange programs, we know that these programs serve to strengthen the ties between global citizens, creating lasting professional and personal value and connection.
The Korean students and recent graduates are pursuing a variety of academic degrees but share a common desire to enhance their education and resume, expand their perspectives and contribute to an American business as an intern. If your business has a need for an enthusiastic and educated intern and you want to provide opportunities to support the Asian community in America, we encourage you to become a host employer.
At a time when there is so much concern about the future state of U.S. visa and immigration policies, we must stand together, united in our belief that these types of programs that allow people from around the world to connect and collaborate are more important than ever. Our passion for the work we do centers on the tremendous positive impact of cultural exchange. We know that bringing people together serves to educate and enlighten, eliminating prejudice, intolerance and misunderstanding. AAG has always been a company that believes tearing down walls is far more powerful in creating peace and prosperity than building walls of separation.
The best chance we have of protecting the values of this country – inclusion, equality, justice and tolerance – is to stand together bonded our common belief in those important principles. We can demonstrate both our commitment to advancing foreign relations and pride in our ancestral heritage by exposing more, not fewer, people to our great nation.
The GAACC mission is to promote Asian American community and community at large as a catalyst for local and global economic growth through advocacy, connections and education. We ask your enthusiastic support of the advocacy initiatives:
“We engage with public officials at multiple levels: City of Austin, county, state (MBE Public Policy Day), and federal through our membership with National ACE. At the national policy level, we support increasing opportunities for Asian Pacific American (APA) entrepreneurs, international trade, immigration reform, disaggregation of APA data and workforce leadership. Locally, we advocate on behalf of our members and the APA community at large to assist them with their business objectives.”
For more information on how you can better your business, community and country by investing in the future of a young person, contact us today. We’re honored to help.
The Presidential election in the United States has raised questions and concern about the future of international exchange programs. We want to assure you that there will be no immediate or dramatic decisions that will affect the existing program.
President-elect Donald Trump will need to first appoint key staff members including a Secretary of State, White House advisors and a leader of The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It will take some time before Trump’s team comes together and any implications to the program begin to emerge.
International Exchange has been supported by both parties and many previous administrations. As a united industry we have worked hard to educate and enlist support of our program, preparing for this possible outcome by making congressional and government allies and establishing strong federal, state and local engagement. Our belief in the positive and far-reaching benefits of cultural exchange is echoed by many other organizations, interest groups, politicians and government agencies. At the Department of State, supporters of the program will likely remain in their current roles as program advocates and administrators.
We commit to all of you that we will continue to work hard on your behalf and for the program in which we firmly believe. All of us are passionate about cultural exchange as a way to promote greater understanding between global citizens. Ours is a program that tears down walls of separation, prejudice, ignorance and division; we do not believe in or support walls of separation. All of us must unite in this higher purpose of the program and do our part to ensure the principles of education and enlightenment are our legacy outcomes. Our best chance at preserving and growing this program will be by our success achieving these important goals.
We promise to keep you informed of any developments, but do not anticipate any program changes for quite some time.
Alliance Abroad Group
Thato Khasuli has become a symbol of hope and inspiration to literally thousands. Since we first published his story about his journey from South Africa to the U.S., it has spread around the internet, touching people all over the globe. Thato has put new energy and passion into our work as cultural exchange sponsors and has fueled our commitment to do more on behalf of global youths with similar dreams. Thato reminds us why Alliance Abroad was created in the first place. We were founded on the belief that access to education and incredible experiences should be available to anyone, anywhere.
In the whirlwind love affair with Thato, we took a step back to reflect how all this came to be. James Bell, our beloved Scottish president and leader, cooked up the idea over a beer with an industry buddy. They wanted to find a way to get people who volunteered for the annual World Youth Travel and Student Conference (WYSTC) fired up and motivated. James decided an incentive would work, and since the passion for many of the South African volunteers was exposure to the industry, education and travel, he came up with the idea of a paid internship in the U.S.
Through his extensive network of industry associates, The Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire enthusiastically agreed to be a host employer and Emirate Airlines, a big WYSTC supporter and sponsor, was pleased to donate the air travel. Now the hard part…who would be the lucky winner?
Thato said that the moment he heard about the internship, he was determined to win (although he respectfully acknowledged his fellow volunteers as equally worthy). When asked what it was about Thato that made him the winner, James smiles pensively. “Thato had this air of confidence and determination, but was also amazingly humble,” he reflects. “I had this strong feeling that if Thato won, something big would happen for him; something life-changing.” James thought his destiny would be changed. We think maybe it has.
Thato came to visit us at our Austin headquarters and thanked us. He reminded us of the importance of what we do -even the sometimes laborious work of pushing paper and processing visas. He told our team how much the experience has changed his life and that of his family and friends. He acknowledged the teams that enrolled him and prepared his paperwork, the account managers who assisted with his training plan, the compliance team who issued his DS forms and the support team and outreach coordinator who ensured he was prepared for his journey and internship opportunity. We were touched as he shared how much the opportunity has meant to him. There were very few dry eyes when he told us about how he was able to send financial support back home to his mother and younger sister.
All of us at Alliance Abroad are thrilled about Thato’s experience and that his story resulted in winning the “Extraordinary Experience” award! But the truth is, it’s not about awards for us; it’s about the reward we get when we see our work making a difference in the lives of others. We’re grateful to Thato for that reminder.
Please stay with our Thato story; we think there are many more chapters yet to be written.
“I’m without words,” is what Thato said when he learned that his story received the coveted Global Youth Travel Extraordinary Experience award. He literally was soaking it all in and then wanted to call his mother to share the news. Thato said she, too, was speechless after she learned that her son, living half way around the world, was being recognized in such a public and personal way. “She thought I was just coming to the United States to work,” Thato explains. “She can’t believe the encouragement and support I’ve gotten since coming here.” It’s been the most incredible experience and one that I hope becomes an inspiration for others, he told me later.
Thato’s video chronicling his journey from a South African township to an internship in the United States is making its way around the internet with over 7,000 views so far. Thato is both humbled and honored and feels hopeful that his story will inspire more students to travel. Thato describes his experience as a new beginning, not just for him, but for others he hopes will follow in his determined footsteps. “Not everyone can afford an opportunity like this,” Thato muses. “Without AAG, this would not have been possible for me.” He wants to implore more employers to give foreign students with similar aspirations a similar opportunity to work, travel, learn and contribute.
This experience has not just opened doors for me, it has the potential to impact others. “Maybe someone will see my story and believe that there is always something better out there. My mother is proud of my achievements and about how my story is helping to inspire others.”
He feels that he has grown personally, professionally and profoundly through this experience. It was a dream that for Thato has surpassed any of his most hopeful expectations. Thato’s advice to anyone with a dream or a purpose is sage. “If you are given an opportunity, grab it with both hands!”
Intrigued about cultural exchange or dreaming about living and working in a foreign country? There is no better endorsement than the real life stories of those who have had similar interests. A year ago Thato Khasuli was a local volunteer at the World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC), in Cape Town, South Africa. Today, Thato is a concierge at a luxury resort in a breathtaking mountain area in New Hampshire, USA. His journey half way around the world was recounted and submitted for the most coveted award in the youth and student travel industry and won. Why? Because Thato’s story reminds all of us in the business of cultural exchange and youth travel why we love what we do. And it encourages every young person who has ever dreamed of venturing beyond their own backyard or borders to take the same leap of faith, following in Thato’s amazing footsteps.
Travel and exposure to a different culture has opened Thato’s eyes and mind to a world of possibilities. Through his “Extraordinary Experience,” he has been both teacher and student, learning about the hospitality industry and a different way of life and teaching his friends, peers and business associates about his own country and customs. He has grown personally and professionally and has discovered that his greatest lessons have generally come from his most daunting challenges. Thato’s lasting legacy will be a reminder to all of us to be undaunted in the pursuit of our dreams and resolute in our commitment to achieve them.
Alliance Abroad is pleased and proud to be the winner of the WYSE Most Extraordinary Experience Award. We may have gotten the award and recognition for providing the experience, but Thato is the real winner. The honor for us is witnessing the fruits of our work and knowing that this experience has been a game changer for Thato and his family. That’s all the reward we need.
It’s been our life’s work to bring extraordinary experiences to thousands of global youths. It’s what motivates us and is still the passion behind our work.
We invite and encourage you to watch the video of Thato’s story and to stay tuned as we continue to follow his journey.
Keri Lowry on the State and Fate of J-1 Exchange Program
The newly appointed U.S. Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary, Keri Lowry, will be attending The World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) later this month in Belgrade, Serbia. Keri oversees the U.S. Department of State’s Visitor Exchange program, which facilitates over 300,000 foreign visitors coming into the United States each year to teach, study and intern. The ultimate goal of the program is to create greater understanding and lasting connections among global youths. Keri is expected to provide important information and updates on the J-1 programs and the impact of current affairs on participants and providers.
“International education and cross-cultural exchanges are important elements of U.S. foreign relations. The people-to-people ties and transfer of knowledge achieved through international exchanges builds and sustains a more democratic, secure and prosperous world that benefits the entire global community. International exchanges are vital to our diplomacy efforts and establish lasting ties and relationships between individuals and nations,” said Ms. Lowry.
Current political and social unrest have shaken tourism and travel industries but youth travel remains strong maintains industry experts. The J-1 visa program is an important element in diplomacy and education and support continues as the program grows and evolves.
“I look forward to engaging with the global youth and stakeholders in the student and educational travel industry. Events like WYSTC help build people-to-people diplomacy by preparing young leaders and students globally to be engaged citizens, critical thinkers with broader perspectives of world, and an appreciation for cultural diversity and foreign languages. This ultimately helps break down stereotypes, transforming nations into peoples and translating ideologies into human aspirations.”
As cultural exchange enthusiasts, Alliance Abroad is passionate about the intangible and far-reaching benefits of visitor exchange programs. Because we believe that access to travel, education and amazing experiences shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be available to everyone, everywhere.
Thato Khasuli’s story reminds us why we do what we do and why we believe in the higher purpose of our work. Though Thato’s tale is his own, in many ways he represents hundreds of thousands of young people around the globe – people with high hopes and taller obstacles. His is a story of perseverance and a testament to the power of the human spirit. His journey from a small township in South Africa to a resort town in New Hampshire gives us all reasons to believe that dreams can and do come true. One leap of faith and years of hard work set Thato on an incredible journey half way around the world that has been marked by lessons, friendships, insights and self-discovery.
In his own words, Thato tells his tale in this video about wanting, working, believing, praying and ultimately achieving.
Follow Thato on our blog as we continue to follow his journey that he hopes will serve as an inspiration for countless youths and businesses around the world.
Thato’s story will be shared at the World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in Belgrade Serbia, September 20-23. We think his tale is remarkable enough to be recognized by the WYSE as Most Extraordinary Experience and it’s made the short list of contenders.
Watch the video and let us know what you think.
AAGives Back is an initiative launched by Alliance Abroad Group in 2015 which encourages J-1 participants to become engaged in the American culture of volunteering. We’ve hosted several give back events this year and will host a Thanksgiving Day event in Austin, TX through Operation Turkey. We will help to feed hundreds of homeless on this special day of thanks and participants will earn an AAGives Back certificate in addition to the good sensation of giving back to the community.
There are several Operation Turkey events happening across the country. If you are a current employer, hosting J-1 participants in one of these cities, please encourage them to volunteer. They can contact Heather MacLaren: firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions they may have.